Monday, July 14, 2008

Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears

So in my last post, I excoriated the Garth Ennis Ghost Rider arc called The Road To Damnation. I thought it tread the same worn ground that Ennis has explored and the art was tremendously poor. It was going to be difficult, I thought, to read the prequel.


It appears I was wrong. Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears was exactly what I wanted from a Garth Ennis-style Ghost Rider adventure. It's a prequel set after the Civil War, when a Confederate soldier, wounded in a battle, gets saved by a former slave, who takes him in and helps him heal. They become fast friends, and when Pelham, the soldier, goes to California to search for his fortunes, Caleb, the slave, and his family gets killed by an angry group of Union soldiers. Pelham comes back and vows vengeance, to hunt them down one by one. But another mysterious figure, a dark rider, is also on the hunt.

Complex, engaging, fully developed characters and a great ending are all things I wanted to say about the first mini-series, but now happily say it about this prequel. This was a terrific story about the dangers and the sweetness of vengeance. This story gets to the nugget of what Ghost Rider is: the spirit of vengeance. Ennis masterfully plays with that theme, and challenges the reader to root for the wrong character.

Even the art is improved. Instead of the heavily computer crap, this time Crain goes for a more painterly look. Everything has an old-timey feel. The anatomy is improved, and even the perspective (except for a couple bizarre panels that I wasn't even sure what I was looking at). This isn't enough to make me like Crain, considering that his visual storytelling techniques need vast improvement. But it was better.

I would definitely recommend this for fans of Ghost Rider and for fans of Garth Ennis. This is a good complex story about vengeance and what horrors people commit and see in its name.

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